Barred owls are slightly larger in size than a barn owl.
NH’s most common owl, the barred owl (Strix varia) sports horizontal bars running across its chest, vertical stripes down its belly, and a smooth round head – no”ears”or tufts.
In addition to the familiar “Who cooks for you?”
call, barred owls engage in rather dramatic caterwauling during their courtship, which begins in February. Breeding starts in March and goes through the summer.
Barred owls mate for life. They like to nest in cavities in snags (large dead trees) within dense forests. Here at ACT we manage our land to keep and sometimes even create such trees for owls and other wildlife.
Two to four eggs are laid per clutch, and the female incubates the eggs for four weeks. After a few weeks, hatchlings start exploring outside the nest, hanging on to nearby tree limbs with their particularly adapted feet. Watch this video and skip ahead to 3:18 to watch an owlet walk up a tree branch. Once adults, their ability to arrange their toes with two in front and two in back, or three in front and one in back, makes perching and striking down prey easy work.
After another six weeks, most young successfully fledge. This venturing forth from the nest coincides with the emergence of the young and not so young of owls’ favorite prey, such as red squirrels, mice, voles, mink, and even rabbits or skunks. The oldest barred owl on record was 24 years old.
Owls move with deadly quiet and speed to swoop up their next meal. A lot of the magic happens from their neck up. Imagine their heads as dish antennas that are specially engineered to let them hear and see where their prey may be lurking.
The feathers that surround an owls eyes and head are arranged to magnify sounds before they enter their ears. Then there are the extraordinary eyes that are so full of photosensitive rod vision cells (excellent for night vision), that they actually take up half of their skull space. Because of their huge eyes, owls can’t move their eyes within the socket. Instead, they can swivel their necks an astounding 270-degrees to lock their eyes on sounds of would be prey. Given their physical adaptations the owl is a highly lethal predator.
The barred owl is ranked as a species of ‘least concern.’ Their greatest threat is the loss of forested landscapes where they like to hunt and nest. This owl is a beautiful creature, and because they are non-migratory and stick to their territory your chances of spotting one is excellent. The next time you’re out for an evening walk, look for some rodent tracks and see if they abruptly stop with a large marking in the snow that could have come from a barred owl wing tip!
***Join us for our Full Moon Owl Walk on March 5th at the Rocks Estate!***